Delft student council distances itself from Nashville

The TU Delft student council is distancing itself from the Nashville Statement. It wants an ‘open dialogue’ on Friday on how TU Delft is intending to promote diversity.

(Photo: Marjolein van der Veldt)

Delta recently revealed that the TU Delft professor Marc de Vries signed the Nashville Statement. According to the Statement, good Christians should reject homosexuality and transgenderism. TrueU, the support group for LGBT staff members at TU Delft, was shocked by the signing and requested the Executive Board to issue a statement.

Open dialogue
The student council has tabled the subject ‘diversity and inclusion at TU Delft’ on the agenda of its monthly meeting with the Executive Board. “We do not support the Nashville Statement,” says student council Chair, Anne-Kee Doing. “TU Delft is a diverse and inclusive university and we believe that everyone should have a place here.” The student council wants to widen the discussion beyond the Nashville Statement. “On Friday, we want to have an open dialogue about the steps that TU Delft is taking to promote diversity.”

This call was echoed by the LGBT+ network, TrueU Delft, which advocates on behalf of LGBT staff members at TU Delft, that also wants to hold a debate. In a second letter to the Executive Board, this network writes that it does not understand ‘why a stronger and more transparent position towards the outside world is not taken’. Respect for personal opinions does not negate one’s own clear position, writes TrueU. Board member Rob Mudde is not yet prepared to give Delta a response.

Lack of urgency
The Board issued a statement on 10 January, but according to TrueU, it is ‘very brief and can only be found on the intranet after much searching’. It contains a general mention of core values, but does not mention either that the Nashville Statement was signed by a staff member or the steps that it is intending to take, says TrueU.

‘Why is it so difficult to distance oneself?’

TrueU believes that there is a lack of urgency. “Why is it so difficult to distance oneself?” asks its Chair Dirk van den Heuvel in a comment. “Social media and the Free University of Amsterdam’s newspaper are saying that TU Delft is not distancing itself (in Dutch) from the Nashville Statement. This is the interpretation if you are not 200 percent unambiguous on clarifying your position.”

Escalation and damage
The longer the issue persists, the greater the escalation and damage to the reputation of TU Delft as an employer that respects diversity and inclusivity, writes TrueU. “That the TU Delft Feminists are demanding the resignation of Marc de Vries is quite something,” says Van den Heuvel. “It has been said that his is a personal opinion, but he signed as a teacher of philosophy and added all his titles.”

Van den Heuvel questions De Vries’ chair – Christian philosophy of technology. “If it would be the chair of particle accelerator, the link to belief would be easier to shove under the title of personal opinion. Let TU Delft explain why it has this chair.”

Van den Heuvel says that there is concern in the Science Education and Communication (SEC) Department. “An email was issued – including to students – saying that people should seek contact with the department if they feel uncomfortable.” Maarten van der Sanden, associate professor at SEC, says that there was space to seek contact with each other last week. “There were mostly individual discussions. Some people were upset that De Vries signed the Statement. Others wanted to talk to him.”

Van der Sanden continues, saying that the students’ response was ‘nuanced’. “They wanted to debate the issue with Marc. Others were more adamant and fiercer. Their responses varied from hurt and angry to the other side.”

News editor Connie van Uffelen

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